Matthew Sylvester (21), also known as M.A.T.T., is a young rapper from Cape Town who is out there making a name for himself despite difficult surroundings and the tragedy of losing his brother.
“I grew up in Retreat, Cape Town. I’ve always been surrounded by poverty and people who are struggling on a daily basis.”
Despite what he saw around him, it was music that caught his attention and heart. “My dad was a DJ, he played all the old school music and that’s where I got the passion for music. Around the ages of 8 and 12, I was listening to all kinds of rap music.”
Matthew explains that he did not just listen to the music, but he wanted to create his own music as well, and at the age of 12 he put lyrics to those beats.
“At the age of 12 I started writing my own music. My first performance was in grade 11, where I performed for my school’s fashion show. I use to be a recording artist only, but then I started doing live performances after I saw the reaction of the crowd when I did my first performance.”
In high school he started getting exposure directly after the grade 11 fashion show. “It started in high school where the dream kicked off. We made my first music video. I formed a fan base and my viewers grew. Everything started from nothing, from starting my Facebook page in CAT class to now.”
High school was only the start of new adventures for him as he soon enough found himself performing with artist such as Jimmy Nevis.
“In 2013 my music kicked off, I got many gigs and performed with Youngsta, Jimmy Nevis, Sk and PJ Twins. I’ve performed at Newlands and Cape Town Stadium as well as clubs and the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC).”
With exposure and success come haters. Matthew explains how he deals with it. “If you don’t have a hater then you’re doing something wrong. At the end of the day if someone hates something that I do, I go out and find out why so that I can perfect it. Without the haters you won’t actually do better.”
He also explains the difficulty it is to make a name for oneself in Cape Town. “In Cape Town it’s challenging to make a name for yourself, you have to get out there and form a fan base because that’s the way your videos will get exposure. Otherwise, people only view artists who are already well known.”
Matthew admits that despite his extreme passion and love for music, he needed to make a living after high school. “I worked to make money and worked two years straight at call centres and retail, hustling hard and doing music on the side.”
Matthew’s love for music goes beyond simply creating lyrics he wants to take it further by studying sound engineering. “I write my own songs, mix and master them as well, because I know how I want it to sound for myself. I am planning on studying sound engineering next year.”
Matthew’s music has significance to him. He explains, “The latest song I wrote, ‘Subliminal High’, is about past relationships. ‘Miss You’ is about my brother, who was tragically killed in 2011, I speak about the emotions I had towards the killer but how it’s not worth running after him.”
He goes on to say, “You don’t wanna follow the footsteps of those people getting drunk everywhere, wasting life, settling. I’m very ambitious, self-motivated and tell myself to be the best. I set myself side goals. I grew up and I lost my brother; when he passed away, I realised that life is short and you have to do what you want to do, not what people want you to be.”
He says how he decided to take a bold step of faith and put his music first. “My job played the role of a wife, being first priority, whereas my music was like a side chick. It was time to make music my wife. I need to sacrifice if I want to do this, I need to do it full time. I gained the recognition I got from music just being a side job, so the possibilities are endless.”
Going fulltime is a massive step, but he says his parents fully support his decision. “My parents support me for my music not just because they’re my parents. They are hard, they don’t let everything go the way I want it to. They will make me work for something. I showed them I could be independent.”
He continues to say that he includes his family in his music, giving them the same opportunities that he gets. “My philosophy is: try to do something that people will remember you by. I try and get my friends and family in the music with me. I bring them along with me just to show them the experience. At the end of the day, I feel like my music is touching somebody, even though it’s not touching everybody. Better to touch one out of two than to touch nothing.”
Matthew says how the year 2011 changed him forever, and what he took out of his brothers passing.
“2011 was a hectic year for me, he was my oldest brother so for him to die at 21 it was weird. So live the life you will always remember. Just enjoy life, stop worrying what the next person is saying. At the end of the day the real you will make a success of yourself, but not if you hide behind someone.”
Matthew had a few words to share to all those with big dreams: “Despite all the negatives that are in your face, if you have a dream go for it, no one is gonna notice you if you don’t. I came out and said I want to do music full time and to take such a step at this age I think it’s my best decision.”
Go and like Matthews Facebook page: MATT CPT
Check out his YouTube channel as well: MATT CPT